Interview with Heather Hepler, Author of We Were Beautiful

Heather Hepler is the author of several books for teens and tweens, including Frosted Kisses (Scholastic, 2015), Love? Maybe (Dial, 2012) and The Cupcake Queen (Dutton, 2009).

She loves tomato soup, fat cats, and hiking. (Not necessarily in that order.) She’s lived in East Texas, Alaska, and Death Valley. Currently she, her son, their two spoiled cats, and their ridiculously smart dog live in Downeast Maine.

She loves it when readers write to her, and she promises to write them back.

Hello, Heather! Welcome to YA SH3LF! Tell us 3 random things about you.

Random things about me – I tend to get obsessed about things easily – apples, painting the house, adopting a new dog. I’ve completed over 100 triathlons including an Ironman. I’ve ridden over 100 miles on my bicycle roundtrip to get a piece of lemon meringue pie.

What can you tell us about your new book WE WERE BEAUTIFUL?

We Were Beautiful is a story of a girl lost in grief and guilt who finds herself again with the help of four new friends. Following the death of her sister, Mia decides that she has no right to be happy. She travels to New York City to live with a grandmother she’s never met where she gets a job as a baker’s helper at a busy deli. There she meets Fig, Sebastian, Cooper, and Meg who show her there is life and love after pain.

Can you describe WE WERE BEAUTIFUL in 3 words?

Moody. Romantic. Quirky.

Is there a time in your life that parallels any event in WE WERE BEAUTIFUL?

There was a time in my life in college that I felt like a beautiful box with nothing good inside. I think everyone goes through a time like this where they have to figure out what really matters and move past the bad things they’ve done or that have been done to them. Learning to love yourself is one of the hardest, but most important things that any of us can do. Without this it’s impossible to love others.

What’s your writing process?

I usually think of a character first. From there I just start writing and letting things happen for a while. Then at some point I realize I need to pull together a plot, so I have to go back and revise and move and delete. That last bit is the hardest. Then I just try to write fast so that the story doesn’t get away from me. It’s really hard for me to pick up the pieces of a story after I’ve let it fall.

When you were a kid, what kind of books did you read?

I loved fantasy and science fiction. My very favorite series was one most have never even heard of. It’s The Tripods by John Christopher. I remember the day I found it at the library. It was kind of old and beaten up, but I took it home and devoured the whole series over a long weekend. Then I begged for my own copies for Christmas. After that I was hooked, reading anything about dystopia and robots and aliens. I didn’t read very many romance novels, but my sister loved them, so I guess some of it got inside of me which probably explains the kinds of books I write.

We Were Beautiful – Heather Hepler

What was the first reaction of the first person who read the first draft of your first book?

Not the best. (Laughing.) It was really pretty bad and I chose someone very critical to read it. They were kind, but firm. I seem to remember him asking if perhaps I’d thought about being a painter.

Who was the first character you ever created/invented?

The very first character I ever invented was Mr. Baggs. He was an gremlin that lived in our basement when I was little. He used to sneak out at night and cause chaos, muddying boots, eating cookies, and hiding library books. I’m not sure how much of a character he was and how much I was just trying to hide my bad behavior.

What’s one thing that you wish somebody had told you when you were first starting out writing?

Writing is rewarding in so many ways, but it will take your time and your ego and beat it up daily. I wish I had known humility from the start. I would have asked more, listened more, and practiced more.


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